April 30, 2011

Picture Pierce Brosnan as a Homeless Man

I was on the Red Line the other day and heard a guy get on. I couldn't see him but he was talking very loudly and no one seemed to be answering him. He'd say things like, "Well yeah, well yeah, well yeah. Don't ya know? Don't ya know?" Over and over. Probably talking to the voices in his head. And then he'd hum. And it was all pretty loud and annoying but he had that kind of voice where you didn't want to turn around to look. I just knew he was going to be a little, dirty homeless guy with a scruffy beard and grimy clothes and three gray teeth.
At some point he wandered up the aisle, still talking, and stood where I could see him. I was right about the clothes, they were filthy, but
he was about 6'2" and thin and could have been a GQ model. Well, if his gray hair was washed and cut and styled and he wore nice clothes and wasn't so drunk he couldn't keep his eyes open. But even through all that he was extraordinarily handsome. Picture Pierce Brosnan as a homeless man.
It made me wonder, do we expect more of good-looking people? Do we automatically think good-looking people are smarter and more successful? It's hard to imagine how someone that good-looking could be homeless. I don't know why.
Is there a correlation between attractiveness and accomplishment? Are handsomeness and homelessness mutually exclusive?
I have a friend (very attractive) who has a fear of losing everything and becoming a homeless person who lives on lower Wacker Drive in a cardboard box. And it's a real fear to her. (My real fear around that would be not having a place to plug in my blow-dryer.)
Surely we all have friends or family who would take us in if we lost everything. Don't we? But then, doesn't Mr. GC handsome homeless man?
I guess I shouldn't count on my looks keeping me out of a cardboard box, huh?

April 25, 2011

Speaking of Films From Books...

What are your favorite films based on a book you really loved? Do they ever hold up? One that comes to my mind is Prince of Tides, one of my favorite books by Pat Conroy. Unfortunately many of his other books are a variation on the same theme but I was enthralled by that one.
The movie begins with a scene from the book that stood out in my mind, one that really explained the relationship between the kids in the family. They would run together down the dock and jump in the river, or lake, or whatever it was, and they would hold hands under water. It was the only place they felt safe. So when the movie began with that scene I thought, oh great...this is going to be wonderful.
Unfortunately it takes a very commercial turn, concentrating on the romance between Tom and his sister's psychiatrist, a very inconsequential part of the book. Very Hollywood. Ruined it for me.
Also, Barbra Streisand as the psychiatrist ruined it for me. Not sure why, I love her, but she was vastly different from what I imagined.
One movie that was better than the book (very unusual) is Winter's Bone. I loved the film, thought it was so well-done; beautifully written, acted and directed. And then I read the book. Or tried to. I can't even imagine how someone could read that book and think it would make a good film. But it did, it made a sensational film. If you haven't seen it, do.
How about you? Do you have any favorite movies from books?

April 24, 2011

Movie Review: Water For Elephants

Very few movies do justice to the book their based on, and Water For Elephants is no exception. That's not to say it isn't true to the book. It is, pretty much, but there's so much missing. Not sure if you'd notice if you hadn't read it.
It's an engaging story but the performances left me flat. Reese Witherspoon, who I love and who has such an appealing presence on screen, seemed to be sleep-walking through this part. She looks gorgeous but I didn't buy her character at all, she seemed very tentative. Robert Pattinson
has only one expression, kind of a hooded-eye look, and there was no chemistry between them.
If you loved the book, and who didn't, go see the movie. It's fun to see it come to life. Just don't expect the same kind of experience.
Two stars out of five for Water For Elephants.

April 21, 2011

An OH-MY-GOD Dessert

Are you a peanut butter and chocolate fan? Then here's an oh-my-god dessert that'll blow you away. It's easy to make, and sort of low fat (well, except for the chocolate fudge brownies and chocolate peanut butter cups) but if you're looking for a real crowd-pleaser, this is it!
It will serve a battalion, just so you know, because when the leftover trifle is in your fridge it's impossible to resist.

Peanut Butter Brownie Trifle

1 (19-ounce) package fudge brownie mix
1 pkg. (10 oz) peanut butter chips
2 pkgs. (13 oz. each) miniature peanut butter cups
4 cups cold 2% milk
2 pkgs. (5.1 oz) instant vanilla pudding mix
1 cup creamy peanut butter
4 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 (8-ounce) containers frozen whipped topping, thawed (I used 1 tub fat free and 2 tubs lite but you could use all fat free)

Prepare brownie batter according to package directions; stir in peanut butter chips. Bake in a greased 13 X 9" baking pan for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near center comes out with moist crumbs - don't overbake. Cool and cut into 3/4" pieces.
Cut peanut butter cups in half; set aside 1/3 cup for garnish. HINT: This is stupid to have to unwrap all those tiny pb cups. Use an equivalent amount of the big ones and just cut them up.
In a large bowl whisk milk and pudding mixes for 2 minutes. Let stand for 2 min. or until soft-set. Add peanut butter and vanilla; mix well.
Fold in 1-1/2 cartons whipped topping.
Layer 1/3 of the brownies in the bottom of a 5-quart trifle dish or bowl; top with 1/3 of the remaining peanut butter cups. Spoon 1/3 of the pudding mixture over the top. Repeat layers twice. Cover with remaining whipped topping, garnish with reserved pb cups.
Refrigerate until chilled.

Serve, and watch your guests go crazy.

April 18, 2011

Movie Review: Potiche

Potiche with Catherine Deneuve is quite possibly the stupidest movie I've ever seen. It begins with Deneuve in a polyester track suit jogging through the park in the spring and spying birds, squirrels, rabbits (doing it), a deer, etc., ad nauseum. And each time she sees something she stops, and her face says, "Oh my! How lovely!" Make me gag. (BTW, she's jogging with rollers in her hair and a schmata on her head.) It's all very kitschy, intentionally (I hope) but just doesn't work at all. The film takes place in 1977 but has a very 50s Leave It To Beaver feel right down to the happy, twinkly music.
It's about a woman whose husband is a philanderer (turns out, so is she) and who has a medical condition so she takes over the company which was started by her father. Confusing? Don't worry about it. Who cares.
Gerard Depardieu is the mayor of the town and someone who she had an affair with years ago. Whew! He looks bad. He looks like someone put a bicycle pump up his butt and pumped a whole lot of air into him. Big, big man. And really, doesn't he have the worst hair in the history of leading men? He always has, and it's still like that, kind of a Prince Valiant thing. Not attractive.
Catherine looks pretty good, a little heavy but hell, she's 67. A little too much lip-plumping too, but she still has great hair.
All in all, take a pass on this film.
Catherine, très stupide! What were you thinking?
Zero out of 5 stars for Potiche.

April 17, 2011

Movie Review: Source Code

I really, really liked Source Code but could someone please explain it to me? What's real and what isn't? Who's alive and who's dead?
Great action, great suspense, terrific plot...and I LOVE Jake Gyllenhaal. His face is so expressive (and so beautiful).
Vera Farmiga is great. Isn't she such a natural actor? So real and true.
Okay, so in the end, is he dead or not? Is he living in a parallel universe? Does he know who he is...or was? How come Goodwin knows what's happened but her boss doesn't?
So many questions. I think I need to see it again. But... I highly recommend Source Code. Just explain it to me after you see it.
4-1/2 out of 5 stars for Source Code.

Movie Review: Trust

Lookingglass Theatre in Chicago did Trust as a stage play. It was difficult to watch, wrenching, very well-done; a really tough subject that hits home for families: a child who finds "love" and acceptance online, thinking that person is someone their own age who turns out to be an Internet predator.
Now, David Schwimmer directs Trust, the movie. It's still tough to watch but somehow not as devastating as the play. Clive Owen and Katherine Keener are the parents, newcomer Liana Liberato is the 15 year-old daughter.
I can't put my finger on what's wrong with the film but it feels more like a made-for-TV movie than a feature film. What is it? I don't know but you know it when you see it, don't you?
A great film with a loosely similar subject is Blue Car with David Strathairn. Watch that one and you'll see what I mean.
2-1/2 stars out of 5 for Trust.

April 16, 2011

It Doesn't Hurt to Ask

Last week I went to a reading/book signing for Elizabeth Berg and her latest book Once Upon a Time There Was You. I've been to at least half a dozen of her readings over the years - she's one of my favorites and she's a delightful and funny presenter.
My favorite book of hers is Durable Goods, her first. Also loved Talk Before Sleep and Random Motion. I highly recommend her work, but those in particular.
Once Upon a Time There Was You was not one that immediately engaged me but by the end I loved it. But here's an odd thing, there's a funky scene in the beginning where two friends, Irene and Valerie who I think are 57, are discussing their bodies. Irene says to Valerie that they should undress
so they can compare. After some (obvious) resistance and discussion Valerie strips down to her underwear.
"Now you," she says as she puts her clothes back on. So Irene strips down completely and as she's standing stark naked in her kitchen her 18 year-old daughter walks back in the house, into the kitchen, having forgotten her cell phone. Oh my.
First of all I can't imagine two women doing that but then I thought there was going to be a story line about the daughter thinking the mother was gay (there wasn't and she's not) but actually it's explained away to the daughter and only mentioned later, briefly, when the daughter's thinking how odd her mother is. Funky, right? And pointless, really. If I'd been Elizabeth's editor I'd have asked her to take that out.
Anyway...it turns out (SPOILER ALERT) the daughter gets abducted and the story is about how the family (mother and ex-husband and daughter) deals with it. Lots of poignant stuff about dealing with trauma and fear and family dynamics and finding a new relationship with your ex. Berg is excellent at character development.
The subject matter is tough and the chapter where Sadie is abducted is horrifying. I almost decided not to read the rest of the book for fear of what was going to happen, which would have been so unlike Elizabeth Berg. But I kept going and (ANOTHER SPOILER ALERT) although what happens to Sadie is horrendous, ultimately she is not physically harmed. I don't mind spoiling that part of the story because I think people might not read it for that.
Anyway, here's the best part of Elizabeth Berg's reading - a lovely luncheon at the University Club - (other than the great people I met there: Claudia, Gig, and two other lovely ladies whose names I don't remember - sorry!): when she was signing my book I gave her a copy of mine and briefly told her how I self-published and now have a book deal with St. Martin's Press. I said, "I know it's unlikely you'll have time to read it but if you do, and you like it, and if you'd be so kind as to write a blurb for the new book I'd be very grateful!"
I know chances are slim but she was very gracious. It doesn't hurt to ask, right? And how wonderful would it be to have her name on my new book jacket?

April 10, 2011

Movie Review: The Lincoln Lawyer

Okay, somebody needs to tell Matthew McConaughey to stop acting and just be the character. When I'm watching him I can almost hear the director saying, "Now look indignant," "Okay, now be intimidating," "Now show remorse." Jeez. You're just always aware that he's acting, and he's not even very good at it.
But if you can get past that (tough, since he's on screen about 98% of the time) The Lincoln Lawyer is a pretty good story. There are a few implausible relationships in the film, one between Mick (McConaughey) and Maggie, his ex-wife, played by Marisa Tomei (whose acting I usually like but not so in this, which leads me to believe the director is part of the problem). There's another with a gang of Hell's Angels who magically appear to come to his aid. Yeah, right.
Many unnecessary characters scattered throughout. But okay, enough of that. You can get past that because it's a complicated script about a smart-ass, engaging character, and I like that kind of film. I just wish someone else had played the smart-ass, engaging character.
A couple of nits to pick: There's a scene where Mick is peeing and his client comes into the bathroom to confront him. Mick, cooly (of course), zips up, snarls a word or two to his client and then leaves the bathroom. Without washing his hands. Eeewwww.
Oh, crap, I forgot the other one. Have to write these things down.
Incidentally, there are probably half a dozen scenes like the picture above, where he's 2" from various people. Ooh, so intimidating.
Two and 1/2 stars out of five for The Lincoln Lawyer.

April 7, 2011

Announcement in Publishers Marketplace

CLICK HERE to see the announcement about my book in Publishers Marketplace. So cool!(Scroll down to Recent Sales.)

What More Could You Want is the new (working) title for Mr. Right-Enough, the new edition that will be published by St. Martin's Press. It was one of my early titles - what do you think?

April 2, 2011

Ponderings from the Precipice

I am standing on the precipice of old age and I have to say, it's an abyss I'm not knocked out about looking into. Today I'm officially a senior, at least by government standards. By AARP standards I've been a senior since they started sending that damn magazine the day after my 50th birthday, but they're just assholes.
It's amazing how young 50 sounds now.
Today I could sign up for social security. Which is an incredible (and surreal) thing to have to say about yourself. Better, as they say, than the alternative but still...
The question is how did I get here?
It doesn't feel like 62 years have gone by. In my head I haven't aged. But then I look in the mirror.
My Bill took me to Lovell's in Lake Forest for dinner. It's an elegant place with great ambiance, delicious food and impeccable service. A nice place to celebrate being an old lady. But then I looked at the pictures and I thought, okay, I don't look so bad. I look better for 62 than I did for 61 so I feel better about this new world I'm living in. Cuz it's all about presentation, isn't it?